Trans-siberian adventures!! Vladivostok to Moscow!

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Well after a surprisingly pleasant 16hr ferry from Korea to Russia, followed by a slightly less pleasant 5 hour bus ride to Vladivostok I finally made it (on time) to the trans-Siberian Eastern terminal!!
My first full day in Russia turned out to be Victory Day – a totally unplanned and welcome coincidence! Although waking up at 7am to drums below my window and tanks rolling through the street was slightly worrying until the locals explained what was going on! 20140519-102757.jpg20140519-102928.jpg20140519-103001.jpg20140519-102946.jpg
While personally it was a bit too much of a macho gun show for my taste, but I can’t deny that the Russian’s put on a good show. It seemed the whole city was out as well as everyone from every other city on the east coast! I didn’t stay out long, the police were directing people from one place to another – and given I had no idea what the hell they were barking on about I decided to stay well out of their way! The evening show was much more to my taste! Some lovely Russian girls from my hostel even escorted me!… Although I still say the fireworks at roundhay bonfire are better!
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Vladivostok itself is a very Russian city, but deffinatly not metropolitan. Many of the buildings are in dire need of restoration and walking around isn’t exactly the safest of choices… Only because of the poor infrastructure! The “pavement” along the sea front doesn’t last long before it becomes a gravel path and on the other side of the road beach users simply walk along the railway! In the city centre I nearly managed to drop 5ft down a huge uncovered manhole, (even tho yes I’m sure I would of made it onto you’ve been framed) it turns out the pavement was full of these holes… Not exactly health and safety on the standards I’m used to! I’m just glad I wasn’t going down that street at night. It would of been like playing minesweeper! Although that being said I did come to quite like the city. It has a smattering of Russian architecture although finding them requires a bit of searching.
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The city’s history and use as a naval port is hard to forget, even when the tanks have left. Battleships sit in the harbour and the city is scattered with war statues and tributes to the fallen.
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When It came time to go for my train to Moscow while I was sad to see the back of this side of the world, the feeling was slightly eclipsed by the impending prospect of getting my bike on the train. I managed to get hold of the company previously who’d told me that the bike was free but it had to be in a box. Now my original plan had been to get a box in Vladivostok but given the apparent lack of bicycle shops, I failed on that account. My second failure arrived at the terminal which concluded in a last minute scramble in the ten minutes before the train was due to leave to find my ticket… Which for some reason I’d accidentally not printed out the night before. Sigh. Luckily this was sorted by a lovely English speaking bloke and afterward I managed to find a back entrance to the platforms so I didn’t take my bike through the sea of metal detectors and policemen which is Vladivostok station!
And so the fun begins. Dashing up to my carriage I was greeted angrily by the female conductor who seemed to take personal offence at the idea that I was going to try and bring my bike into HER carriage! After point blank refusing me, I nearly gave up hope. Luckily a Russian fella walking past seemed to bypass all she was saying (much to her annoyance) and told me to take the wheels off, then he picked up the frame and walked straight on! Ignoring her protests! I scuttled after him with my wheels and by the time we’d found somewhere to put it the train was moving! I guess a reasonable success, although I did spend the next 4 days getting evil eyes from her.
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My carriage was the cheapest available and contained a hell of a lot of beds! To begin with the train was very quiet but as soon as our route merged with the other transiberian routes we were full!… The smell was impressive. There is little to avoid it when your stuck on a train for 7days with no showers and the only privacy is two TINY toilet cubicles. Still I am actually not complaining, I paid less than half of what most websites say tourists should expect and although my carriage buddies were mostly army men being transported and oil miners on their way home from Siberia I met some great people!
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These fellas, all oil miners refused to leave me alone! (Once they realised I wasn’t American) they kept barraging me with questions about my bike then showing me pictures of their children, and once the beer came out I even got a couple of marriage proposals since they were so enamoured by my adventures! Haha, and then there was my bunk-buddie Demitry who I met while his sobbing girlfriend refused to take her arms off him until the conductor was shouting at her to get off the train! He was slightly embarrassed but got over it quickly haha!
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Despite the company I still spent most of my time reading or staring out into the countryside – which looks suspiciously similar to the Yorkshire dales I might add! After a few days they all begin to blur together, passing through so many time zones Is endlessly confusing. I never seemed to know what time it was or if I should be tired or not! The only thing that seemed to mark our movements west was the station stops!
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If there’s one thing I’ve learned, haggling over the price of super-noodles with old Russian women is not my forte! Oh and that it is actually possible to live on noodles for a week! – I had little choice given my train didn’t even have a restaurant carriage, the price you pay for being cheap! Haha, good job I don’t mind roughing it! Coming into Moscow the train got hellishly busy, it was all I could do not to kick people off the end of my bed when I got tired and wanted sleep!
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When my final night on the train did come I was deffinatly ready to arrive! And so 6 days later, 7 if you don’t include time zones, I arrived into Moscow! Let the fun begin in Russia’s biggest city’s, Moscow and St.petersburg!
;

Goodbye japan! And briefly, hello korea!

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Well my time in japan has come to an end, it was a long month, 850 miles along the coast from Tokyo to Fukuoka. It’s been an experience but it’s time to move on!… But the hell known as ‘golden week’ (equivalent of Japanese school holidays) has been foiling my every turn! Even now I’m in korea the hordes of Japanese holidaymakers are getting in my way… In every possible way! From fully booking out the ferry from Japan to Korea to fully booking EVERY BLOODY HOSTEL in both japan and the south coast of Korea! I’ve been lucky with accommodation, on one occasion after over hearing a woman screaming outside a hostel – about how she refused to pay for a room she wasn’t staying in… I managed to sweep in an hour later and take her bed hehe! And thank god I managed to wrangle a last minute spot on the ferry after two days trying!

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The ferry was an experience, 6 hours with about a million children running around with parents already looking like they wished they’d just stayed at home, I took to hiding on the deck to prevent the stares of all the curious children and adults burning a hole into my cycling gear… Even though I must admit it looks odd to be kitted out without the bike with me! Not to fear, it was sat waiting on the other side, not a scratch, thank god!
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Busan was insane, full of tourists, the streets were still buzzing with life even at 11pm while I was desperately searching for a hostel. Unfortunately golden week had spilled over here too – I cant escape! On the verge of giving up and finding a nice bar to spend the night chilling in, some lovely women in a hostel took pity on me and let me sleep in the common room of their hostel! Bloody lucky! -even though not the best sleep I’ve ever had, waiting till 4am for everyone to finally go to their beds and trying to ignore the smell of the fish markets which covered the 6 floors below us!… Even if the view was fabulous.
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Unfortunately my time in Korea is more rushed than I would of liked it to be and I’m pretty much just in a race to reach my ferry to Russia in time! So after a night in Busan it was onwards to Seoul! I managed to sneak my bike on the KTX ‘Koreans high speed rail system’… Ten minutes before set off I was found by a conductor who was scandalised and kept obviously saying “only folding bikes – this not allowed” but I decided ignorant foreigner was probably the best way forward so in reply to “only folding bikes” I’d
reply “take the wheels off? Oh okay!”. It didn’t take long until, a few minutes before departure she went “uh okay keep it on!” 1-0 to Amy!

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Seoul is a lovely city, if I’m honest I think I probably prefer it to Tokyo. It has a very unique feel. The proximity to North Korea isn’t east to forget and I’m sure it’s the same for those that live here. The statue above is one of hundreds across Korea that hopes for a one day united Korea again. The story behind it is of a South Korean solider who saw his younger brother, who was fighting on the opposing side during the Korean conflicts, dropped his weapons and ran over to him. Seoul feels open and hopeful, for a metropolitan city it has managed to keep a very unique and Korean atmosphere. I imagine you could spend weeks here and never get bored but alas I’ve gotta be moving on!

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I left Seoul by bus… Stowing my bike in the undercarriage while the driver was mobbed by an angry group of Koreans complaining that the bus was late! – he was very confused when he saw me taking it off at the other end, but I was just relieved Id made it in one piece!
After getting the bus across the north border I’m kind of relieved that I didn’t cycle it in the end… Turns out the north-east of Korea is a huge mountain range! Probably would of taken my slightly longer to cycle than planned!

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Even in the small seaside town of Sokcho there was still no room at the inn. I tried every hostel but no joy. Finally I found a campsite on the beach and after persuading the bloke in charge that my tent was so small I would be able to find room on his already full site, he eventually came round to my way of thinking. He even let me stay for free! Perhaps since him and all the other Koreans had so much fun watching me having a one on one battle to keep my tent standing! Who needs a t.v eh!

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Sokcho beach is gorgeous, one of the nicest I’ve been on. I can understand why Koreans flood here in the summer. I stayed up watching the fireworks which seemed to go on all night. Although Korean food isn’t really to my taste… The tanks stuffed to the brim with live sea creatures or stalls full of what looks like dried octopus or fried crabs, yea, not really my thing. Although I can tell you Korean cakes are lovely!!
But now it is onward to Russia and hopefully to the trans-siberian, provided all goes to plan. Part of me feels things are going to smoothly – hopefully my good luck won’t fade just yet!

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